In the Navy: a WWII story

I recently had the opportunity to record the story of my grandmother in WWII for a storytelling class. It tells the story of how my Nana, Mildred Kaiser, joined the WAVES and served in the Navy during WWII. It follows the timeline of that part of her life. Click here or click the video below to view the digital story!

Thank you to Prof. Kate McDowell and my UIUC Storytelling classmates who inspired me to share this story in a new way! I had previously written about her time in the WAVES in a three-part series.


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The History of Pleasant Hill School

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The small schoolhouse shown on the Ira Douglas / Pleasant Hill property in 1871. (Image Source: 1871 Plat Map, DeKalb Co., IL, HistoricMapWorks.com)

On Pleasant Hill Road, in Mayfield Township, DeKalb County, Illinois, there once was a small white schoolhouse, with a small farm cemetery next to it. It was diagonally across the road from Pleasant Hill Farm, first owned by Ira Douglass, and later owned by Gustaf Medine, and then by Charles W. Drake.

The little “crude log” one-room schoolhouse was built on land owned by Ira Douglass in the early 1840’s. Its first teachers in the 1840’s were Lucy Stuart, Fanny Clark and Harriet Russell.  The earliest religious services in Mayfield were also conducted in the schoolhouse. Coincidentally, Ira Douglass was also a leader in the Methodist Episcopal Church of Mayfield. It is unknown what happened to the original schoolhouse, and how long classes were conducted there. Services for the Mayfield church were held there through at least the 1860’s, and the old schoolhouse appears on an 1871 map. In 1870, the county superintendent of the schools deemed the schoolhouse to be “too small, and is so near the road that a person sitting in his carriage can almost take hold of the door handle. There is no black-board worthy of the name.” Twenty-five students attended Pleasant Hill School that year.  Continue reading “The History of Pleasant Hill School”

In memoriam: Ronald L. Kaiser

Ronald L. Kaiser, 87

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The four Kaiser siblings, about 1945. Glendora, Ron, Mildred and Mary Kaiser. (Image Source: Kaiser family photos, privately owned.)

Ronald “Ron” LeRoy Kaiser was born 18 May 1930 in DeKalb, IL, and passed away 30 December 2017 in Normal, IL. He was the son of Glenn and Mildred (Lawrence) Kaiser, the younger brother of Mildred, Mary, and Glendora, and the loving husband of Arlene. Continue reading “In memoriam: Ronald L. Kaiser”

In the census: Neighbors & Family

I rely on census records to tell me a lot about my ancestors, and to see a snapshot of their households in particular points in time. I also try to browse their neighbors to see who they lived near, who they could have known, and who they may have done business with. I’ve found some valuable information and a few remarkable coincidences this way!

Continue reading “In the census: Neighbors & Family”

Favorite photo: Nana and Papa at the fair

One of my favorite photos from my family history is actually a set of photos. My grandparents, Ed Drake and Millie Kaiser, were out on the town and visited a photo booth. This set of tiny photos are the photos that were taken there! When I asked my grandmother about them, she said they must have been taken when a fair came to town. They both look so happy, and you can see some of the mischief in my grandfather’s face. He could always make us laugh. I remember both of them that way. I love these photos because although I knew them later in life, I can see that they had the same spirit when they were younger, too.

Continue reading “Favorite photo: Nana and Papa at the fair”